Back in 2014, the Warwickshire group researched the history of some tall cast iron poles that were originally surmounted by large direction boards showing the distances to London, Stratford and Long Compton, along the route of the 1730 Stratford to Long Compton Turnpike.
Up in West Yorkshire, we were frequently dismayed at the lack of knowledge about imperial distance measurements that was displayed by bright young Cubs and Scouts as well as the keen construction students taking part in the Beyond Graffiti project. They had no idea about how many yards make a mile, which is worrying considering that the older ones are learning to drive and our road system is still calibrated in yards and miles. How to remedy this shortfall?
“Wouldn’t it be great if every child in England had the opportunity of learning about imperial distances and milestones?!”
We’d tried to get milestones into the National Curriculum via poetry in the past; those who came to our meeting at Snibston will recall the energetic teacher from a Sheffield Comprehensive, demonstrating how to incorporate creative writing about milestones. And we set up the “Wayside Verse” section of our website to encourage and inspire others, but have made few inroads. Well, why not link it to the gory “Highwayman” poem, by Alfred Noyes, taught in Key Stage 2 to years 5 or 6, at the top of primary, by creating an educational resource for teachers who are charged with delivering it?
Heritage Lottery Fund took great interest in our aspirations and in Spring 2017 HLF granted us £36k of funding for the development of the education resource, including a video of the Highwayman whose authentic performances were star attractions at both the Beyond Graffiti and Crossing the Pennines events.
Coupled with this was a national poetry competition on the theme of ‘Milestones’ which was run on behalf of the Society by WriteOutLoud, a group promoting poetry and gigs throughout the UK and beyond – and the restoration of the unique Warwickshire mileposts. We called the project "Finding the Way".
The two education and restoration streams came together in summer 2017, when the six restored mileposts were proudly erected back in place and a display was mounted at Long Compton village fete. The exhibition display panels have toured local halls and museums.
The poetry competition attracted over 500 entries and the Milestone Society’s Annual Conference held at Long Compton in October 2017 showcased the winning poems as well as the restoration works.